What is a ghostwriter?
A ghostwriter is a writer who writes books, stories, blogs, magazine articles, or any other written content that will officially be attributed to another person – the credited author or 'commissioner'.
Why use ghostwriting services?
Sportspeople, politicians, celebrities, and business people are the traditional users of ghostwriting services. While these people are experts in their fields, they are not professional writers. Hiring a ghostwriter to write their autobiography, biography or business document ensures they convey their message clearly and professionally.
I’m not a celebrity. Why do I need my story ghostwritten?
Some reasons that you may choose to work with a ghostwriter are:
- English is not your first language and you are not confident about writing a book for publishing
- You are writing your first book and need help getting started
- You have a story that is important to you. It may be a memoir, a biography, your autobiography, ‘that’ story you have held inside you for your whole life, a ‘how-to’ or self-help book that you want to share with others, an article, or an online blog. You do not have the confidence to express your ideas with clarity or the experience to write with confidence.
What do ghostwriters write?
A ghostwriter may be hired by the credited author (or the credited author’s publisher) to:
- write a complete book, article or blog
- do most of the writing for a book based on a specified outline
- do research for a book, article or blog
- finish off a book in the same style as the author to free them up for other writing work
- write sections of a book in collaboration with the credited author (similar to ‘developmental editing’).
How do I find a ghostwriter for my book?
The best way to find a good ghostwriter is to:
- consult professional publications
- consult professional organisations
- do an online search for ghostwriting, contact several writers, and ask them about their experience.
Ghostwriting Australia: Finding a Ghostwriter
- the Australian Writer’s Marketplace, available in book form or online https://www.awmonline.com.au/ Search the Commercial Services Directory for 'ghostwriting'
- Australian Society of Authors https://asauthors.org/
How much does it cost to ghostwrite? There are several considerations around fees:
- How much material is involved and how long will it take to write?
- How much written material can you provide the writer, and what kind of shape is that material in?
- What is the complexity of the subject matter and the required expertise of the ghostwriter? If you need a book written on rocket science, you would expect to pay both for the ghostwriter’s writing expertise and for their knowledge of the specialised subject
- How established and experienced is the ghostwriter?
To write a complete book, a professional ghostwriter can take several months to a year to research, organise, write, edit, and revise a non-fiction work. Meantime, they have to live, and so if they are working pretty much full time on your book, you will need to expect to pay accordingly.
Some ghostwriters charge a flat fee per word, or per page. Other ghostwriters may accept a percentage of the royalties on the sales of the book. If you are an unpublished author and you do not yet have a publishing contract, it is unreasonable to expect the ghostwriter to accept payment based exclusively on a percentage of royalties when there is no realistic basis for expecting there will be any.
Book ghostwriting fees can range from the ‘low’ end at $10,000, to $100,000 per project charged by established celebrity ghostwriters (some celebrity ghostwriters command $250,000 plus).
If the project is small – the ghostwriter is writing a blog, an article, or a few chapters of your book – then you can expect to pay an hourly or per-page rate, and this depends on what the individual ghostwriter charges per hour or per page.
It is worth checking with your accountant, as the cost of ghostwriting a book related to your business may be tax-deductible.
How long does it take to ghostwrite a book?
As a rough guide, a 200-page non-fiction book may require close to 300 hours of time – around 70 hours of research and organisation time, one hour’s writing time per page, and one hour of editing/revision time for each 10 pages.
Why shouldn’t I hire a ghostwriter offshore?
A recent trend has been to outsource ghostwriting jobs offshore. While this may initially save fees, the quality varies wildly and usually, a book that has been ghostwritten by someone whose first language is not English is never published. The ghostwriter does not understand the culture, or the nuances of the English language, or the vernacular (e.g. Australian English).
In suggesting that it is not ideal to hire a ghostwriter whose first language is other than English, our intention is not to be culturally insensitive. We are simply being practical. If the boot was on the other foot, and you wanted your book written in a language other than English, you would not hire a writer whose first language was English.
Choosing a ghostwriter based exclusively on price is false economy and ultimately not cheaper. You may need to spend a lot of time communicating your intent when the ghostwriter does not ‘get it’. The ghostwriter may have to rewrite multiple times before they get it right – if they do. Isn’t that precisely why you hired a ghostwriter? To get it right the first time?
It’s simple really; you get what you pay for.
What should I look for in a ghostwriter?
- A good writer. Give them an idea of what you want and ask them to write a few pages
- A ghostwriter you communicate with easily and feel at ease with
- A ghostwriter whose first language is English
- A ghostwriter who understands the cultural context of your story, and the nuances of the English language.
Should I credit the ghostwriter for writing the book?
There are various ways that a ghostwriter can receive credit for their writing contribution if you as the credited author wish to. It is up to you how much credit, if any, you give to the ghostwriter. The ghostwriter may receive partial credit (‘with...’ or ‘as told to....’ on the cover), or the acknowledgement may mention the ghostwriter’s contribution.
If you do not wish the ghostwriter to receive any official credit for writing your book or article, you as the credited author can agree this with the ghostwriter. You may ask them to sign a nondisclosure contract that forbids them from revealing their ghostwriting role.
Is the ghostwriter entitled to a share of royalties when my book is published?
If you are paying per page or per word, or you have agreed a flat fee for ghostwriting your book, you generally keep the royalties. How you pay the ghostwriter and whether you share the royalties is part of negotiating with the ghostwriter.
Should we have a contract?
As with any business arrangement, it is always a good idea to have a written contract, signed by both parties, setting out the agreement between you. The Australian Society of Authors has a template the ghostwriter can use as a basis for the agreement.
Is ghostwriting really for you?
This blog has shown that ghostwriting is a lengthy and costly process. That's why it's mainly well-known people like politicians, sportspeople, and celebrities who commission a ghostwriter. Also, the manuscripts of these figures are much more likely to be picked up by mainstream publishers, who need to minimise their risks. The first way of doing this is to be assured of sales of the finished book. While this may be discouraging to hear, it is an understandable reality.
What's an alternative to ghostwriting?
I’ve discovered that around 98 per cent of the people who first contact me about ghostwriting would actually like to write their book themselves. But they don't have the confidence, believe they don't have the skills, and don't know where to start.
That's why I created my book coaching and book writing programs. Over the years, I've worked with writers who've started with nothing, writers who've had a rough draft that's all over the place, writers who've written several chapters but then got stuck.
Book coaching and writing programs are more affordable than ghostwriting. Check out here the various programs currently available.